While spring's seasonal vegetables sprout up timidly from cold dirt, summer's bounty arrives like a freight train. Go to your local farmers market in April and May and new vegetables and fruits slowly arrive one by one. In June though, the floodgates open, and squash, legumes, tomatoes and other produce literally spill out of the farmers' bins.
Tomatoes have been available at the Dallas Farmers Market for months now, but they're starting to show up in the small neighborhood markets too. But the real test for when a vegetable has reached its peak flavor is when local chefs start to use them. That time is now.
David Uygur recently added Lemley's tomatoes to his menu at Lucia, and the chef can't say enough about the quality. "I will put them on the menu as much a I can," he said describing sauces, salads and other dishes that feature tomatoes cooked or raw. Uygur uses the popular farmer's onions as well and sources legumes of all sorts from across the state.
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"Texas shells, cream peas, Kentucky wonder beans." Uygur listed varieties like a grocer. "We just got some butter peas we served in a tripe stew."
Danyele McPherson at The Grape is in summer mode too. While she uses Lemley's tomatoes nearly year round as slicers for her burgers, summer gives her access to much more variety. She's particularly impressed with the multicolored orbs she's buying from Rain Drop Farms in Bangs. "They're starting to get really, really awesome now," she said.
John Tesar from Spoon is also on a big tomato kick, though not just for slicing and dicing. Rain Drop Farms supplies his restaurant with tomato water, an ingredient made by pureeing tomatoes and straining the pulp. The resultant liquid is bright and aromatic with the smell of summer. It's also less harsh than lemon juice making it Tesar's seasonal acid of choice.
Not everyone wants to pulverize and strain the day away, and David Uygur's favorite treatments for tomatoes at home might be the most refreshing. "Honestly it's hard to beat the perfect tomato and some salt," he said. "If you need to gild it a little bit, the BLT is hard to beat, too."